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Articles Archive for April 2011

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[27 Apr 2011 | No Comment | 2,739 views]
MIT Scientists Enlist an Army of Viruses to Improve Solar Cell Efficiency

For a long time I believed all viruses to be evil due to their pernicious habits: causing common colds, infecting people and spreading influenza and other viral diseases, and wiping out hard drives with grim efficiency.  A group of researchers at MIT decided to give viruses a chance to show a softer side, and they found out that “going viral” can benefit solar cell technology by improving its efficiency by one third.
Scientists have been working with carbon nanotubes (essentially, rolled up sheets of graphene) to encourage solar cells to convert …

EARTH, WOOD »

[21 Apr 2011 | 2 Comments | 5,559 views]
Stronger than Kevlar: Plastic Reinforced with Nanocellulose Fibers from Pineapples!

It’s always a shock to find out that something you thought you made up is actually (or at least mostly) true.  Take the post I wrote for April Fool’s Day about a new plastic made from pulverized Tulip leaves: I thought that heating and then pulverizing plant fibers into a fine powder and suspending them in a polymer matrix to make a super-strong material was a crazy idea of my own making that sounded faintly feasible.  As it turns out, Brazilian researchers at Sao Paulo State University are at this very moment working on a new plastic …

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[20 Apr 2011 | No Comment | 2,416 views]
QuaDror: A Brand New Geometry for Twenty-first Century Materials

If you’ve been to Disney World or were alive in the 1960’s, you’re likely well aware of the work of Buckminster Fuller, a designer, architect, engineer, globalist, and mathematician who (among a wide variety of other activities) developed geodesic spheres, structures whose geometry engendered great strength without much mass.  I made it down to the World of Disney in college, and while riding the escalator up into Epcot I remember thinking the building was radical, but that was because of the geometry – not because of the …

METAL, WOOD »

[12 Apr 2011 | No Comment | 2,584 views]
NASA’s “Magic Skin” for Airplanes Could Improve Building Envelope Tech

Most buildings don’t fly – well, I suppose that somewhere there may be some that do – but for the most part our built environment tends to touch down in one place and stay there.  In contrast, airplanes carry large groups of people at high speed, hurtling through the air over great distances; and the design of a plane must overcome a host of messy, complicated issues relating to flight with which your house or office building will never contend. Modern airplanes, like modern buildings, are functional and getting the job done, but I think …

FIRE »

[5 Apr 2011 | One Comment | 3,486 views]
Power your Home – Turn Over a New (Solar Cell) Leaf!

Here in the northern hemisphere (especially here in the lower latitudes) Winter is receding and Spring is hopping in on little rabbit feet.  What this means, of course, is that we’re all sneezing, snuffling, and sniffling due to the staggering amount of pollen flying around in the air we breathe.  Through a fuzzy haze of allergy medication, my itchy red eyes are finally able to gaze at blooming flowers and gorgeous green leaves emerging at last from miniscule buds on tree branches.  The leaves are gearing up to perform the hard work of converting light energy into food – a task they …

EARTH, FEATURED, WOOD »

[1 Apr 2011 | 2 Comments | 34,804 views]
Stronger than Steel! Amazing New Super Plastic Made from Tulip Leaves

In the early 1600’s, the Dutch found themselves completely overcome by Tulip mania. Demand for these perennial flowers skyrocketed to the point where you could have fed six modest families for thirty seven years on what some people paid for a bulb.  People were making fortunes trading rare species.  Had the flower joined Twitter, it would have made Justin Bieber look profoundly unpopular.  But within a short period of time the “tulip bubble” burst, leaving fields of flowers to rot and leaving many merchants as ruined as victims of a …

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